June 25, 2007

A Year of Major Surprises

Here are the results of a recent poll taken among the members at Goat Hills Golf Club regarding the major championships of 2003:

Question: Is it conceivable that the winners of this year's four majors — Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel — were going by their real names?

No. According to 56 percent of those voting, the winners were actually George Archer, Orville Moody, Tony Jacklin and Ray Floyd, who also captured the four majors of 1969.

A healthy 22 percent of the voters said Weir, Furyk, Curtis and Micheel were, in reality, Larry Mize, Scott Simpson, Nick Faldo and Larry Nelson, the winners of the majors of 1987, another thrilling year.

A solid 18 percent believe that Tiger Woods must have won all four majors this year because he was the only player they ever saw on network television. When told that, no, Tiger didn't win any of them, that, in fact, he finished tied for 15th in the Masters, tied for 20th in the U.S. Open, tied for fourth in the British Open and tied for 39th in the PGA, the voters said, well, all right, then it must have been Phil Mickelson.

An astute 16 percent asked why in the majors did Tiger continually look as if he were asking, "Why is this happening to me?" The answer is because he went from Mozart to Nicklaus overnight, you have to remember, and only got to spend 10 minutes in college being a real person. He still has much to learn, such as to stop taking vicious swipes at tee markers with his driver.

Meanwhile, a bright 12 percent of the voters insisted that Shaun Micheel's name was spelled wrong in at least two places.

Another 10 percent said, "Where is Annika in all this?"

Then there was the last 5 percent who wanted to know more about Patricia Toulouse Lautrec and Hilary Funk, the LPGA mystery guests who robbed Annika Sorenstam of the other two majors in her gutsy effort to win a Grand Slam. As it was, Annika came within a fat wedge in California and a pushed fairway wood in Oregon of doing it.

By the way, this adds up to a total of 139 percent out of 100 percent of the voters, which is typical of the arithmetic practiced at Goat Hills.

Question: Was Shaun Micheel's 7-iron to the 72nd green at Oak Hill the greatest shot anyone ever hit on the last hole to win a major?

No. According to 98 percent of the voters, the shot was drenched in luck, even though the guy spent the whole day proving there was no back-off in him. Mainly he didn't back off from himself. But if the shot had rolled two more inches, it would have gone in, and that would have made it stupefying luck. As Ben Hogan once said, "A shot that goes in the cup is pure luck, but a shot to within two feet of the flag is skill."

Micheel admits he was only trying to get the ball on the green. Sure, put it among the most stunning occurrences in majors, but as a golf shot it doesn't measure up to the all-timer. Which was Arnold Palmer's approach to the last hole at the 1960 Masters. Knowing he needed it, Arnold stuck the 6-iron six feet from the stick and made the birdie putt that nipped Ken Venturi by a stroke.

Fact is, the Shot of the Year still belongs to Annika — her opening tee shot at Colonial. It had more pressure on it and a far greater buildup to it than anything else in 2003.

Stir in the Colonial gig with her performance in the majors and you also have the Player of the Year: Annika. Yeah, even over any guy.

How can I say that? Because, as usual, I covered the four men's majors, and all I could say this time was, "Why is this happening to me?"